You task today in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to spend some time on a successful blog in your niche.
The purpose of this task is not to promote yourself on the blog – but rather to spend time watching, listening and observing how the blog operates with the goal of letting what you learn help shape your own blogging strategy.
There is a lot that a blogger can learn about spending time on other blogs (particularly those who are doing well). You can pick up all manner of ideas, strategies and tips both things that they do well that you might like to emulate but also things that they’re missing that could help you to differentiate yourself.
Here’s how I suggest you go about today’s task:
1. Identify a successful blog in your niche
You might already know of these sorts of blogs or you might need to do a little research.
If you’re not sure which one to choose head to Technorati’s top 100 blogs or Google Blog search and attempt to find a blog that is doing well on your topic. If you can’t find one that is exactly on your topic don’t stress too much – choosing a blog on a related topic will work too.
2. Take 15 minutes to do some analysis of the blog in some of the following areas
- What topics are they covering?
- What topics are they ignoring?
- What voice/style do they post in?
- How often are they posting?
- What level are they pitching their posts at (beginners, advanced etc)
- What topics generate most conversation?
- What styles of posts seem to connect with readers best?
- What questions are readers asking in comments?
- What complaints do you see readers making in comments?
- What tools/mediums is the site using (eg: are they using Twitter, forums etc)
- What first impression does their design give?
- What have they done well? What have they done poorly?
- What Options do they give readers to subscribe?
if you’re attempting to make money from your blog this will be relevant as it will give you hints as to how you might make money:
- what advertisers are targeting this blog?
- what type of affiliate programs are they promoting?
You might also like to head to a site like Alexa or Compete to do some analysis of the blogs traffic levels. Is it growing, plateauing or shrinking. Alexa also gives some stats (not always accurate) on page views, time on site, sites linking in, bounce rate, where the audience is from (geographically), where people go on the site etc.
If you have some competence in SEO you might like to check out how they’re doing in some of these areas:
- Who is linking to this blog? (use the link:www.blogurl.com command in Google to find out)
- What does their source code reveal about how they’ve set up their site
- If they have an open or unlocked stats package what can you learn from their stats? What pages are popular? Where does their incoming traffic come from?
Really the numbers of questions you could be asking is limitless but what you’re attempting to do with this exercise is to identify what is working well on the other site and what opportunities there might be to position your blog in ‘gaps’ that the blog is leaving.
When you do this type of analysis with a number of blogs in your niche you should begin to see some patterns emerging. Things that consistently work on blogs in your niche and things that perhaps you could do that nobody else is doing.
Two quick words of warning:
1. Don’t become Obsessed with what other Bloggers are Doing
A trap some bloggers fall into is spending so much time watching their ‘competitors’ that they spend less time actually building something of value of their own. This analysis is useful to do every now and again – but don’t let it become something that you do at the expense of other core activities on your own blog.
2. Don’t Copy – Be Unique
Another trap I see some bloggers doing is virtually replicating every aspect of another blog. While there’s a lot we can learn from others and lessons we can take from what others are doing – if you simply copy everything another blog does you don’t differentiate yourself and give potential readers no real reason to read you instead of others.
How did you go with your Analysis?
As usual – feel free to share what you learned from this task in comments below.
Join the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge
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Update – You can also share, discuss, and explore this Daily Task over at the forum:
This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.
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